Lars Eller always looks like he's smelling something fowl.
Erat on the Outs?
Will Erat and Green be teammates for much longer? (Photo by M. Richter)
When the Washington Capitals traded their number two prospect Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat and Michael Latta at last year’s deadline, it was believed that Erat would fit in a top six role and spread out the goal scoring among the forwards. While in 9 games he only recorded one goal and two assists, the potential to do well in head coach Adam Oates’s system was there. However, in three games this season, he has seen limited ice time, mostly on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson, and has amassed no points with only two shots on goal. Erat has spoken out about his role on the team, with no response from the coach or the organization. The question now becomes what to do with Erat and his $4.5 million cap hit over the next two seasons.
At the moment, Erat has been left as a role player, earning minimal minutes as a bottom six player with little, if any, power play time. During the 2011-2012 season, Erat was credited with 13 assists on the power play and a total of 18 power play points. Instead, Oates has chosen to use Joel Ward with the man advantage. Throughout his career, Ward has scored no more then five power play points. Given, Erat and Ward’s roles on the power play would be different. Ward has been used in front of the net, whereas Erat would likely be just inside the faceoff circle. Oates could then use Brooks Laich to replace Ward in front of the net, instead of having him inside the faceoff circle.
In regards to Erat’s future, the easiest option would be to give the Czech winger more minutes on the first or second line. His speed and goal scoring could help nicely on the first line left wing spot, where Marcus Johansson has been since last season, or on the second line in Laich’s spot. While Johansson has more long-term potential, this season he has had moments of brilliance surrounded far too often with points of frustration from Caps fans. Erat’s scoring history is respectable, especially while playing with a notoriously defensive team in the Nashville Predators. His highest point total was during the 2011-2012 season when he scored 19 goals and collected 39 assists. Playing on a more offensive team like the Caps could certainly push those numbers higher, especially considering how lethal the teams power play can be.
However, what is becoming a more likely option is that Erat may be traded. He has a no movement clause in his contract, so any trade the Caps work out would have to be approved by Erat. While he may want to leave the Caps, he is unlikely to want to go just anywhere. The opportunity to play for a Stanley Cup contender in the Caps is an opportunity he is unlikely to pass up. However, with his minimal minutes, lack of offensive stats, and high cap hit, opposing Stanley Cup contenders are unlikely to want to take on his salary without dumping another under performing high priced player.
If General Manager George McPhee moves Erat, his role on the team could be easily replaced. Depending on what the return would be, the team could move Jason Chimera to the fourth line left wing spot, or go with usual healthy scratch Aaron Volpatti. They could then move Laich back to the third line, and have the possible new addition in Laich’s spot on the second line.
With Forsberg scoring his first NHL goal the other night, the talk now is, “did the trade make sense?” While it is far too early to tell, trading Erat just to dump some salary would make the Caps, and McPhee, instant losers. The better option might be to use the offensive talent to their advantage, and play him.
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